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Jak X: Combat Racing

Developer: Naughty Dog | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 10/18/05 | Genre: Driving

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was a breath of fresh air for the PlayStation 2. It was with that game that Sony began to take dominance away from Nintendo in the platformer genre. Two sequels later, Naughty Dog still isn't done with the franchise. But those of you expecting just another Jak and Daxter adventure may be sad to learn that this time around the action is all in vehicles. Fear not, this bold new direction for Jak is actually a lot of fun.

Jak and his friends are summoned to hear the reading of Kew's will. While there, they toast and drink. Unfortunately for them, Krew had poisoned all the drinks and tells everyone, via a hologram, that they must compete in a series of races to obtain the antidote. The winning team would be given it. This story sounds great on paper and it works well in the game except for one small detail... All of the your friends that are supposed to be working with you to get the cure start attacking you and attempt to win the race on their own. This is a minor detail in an otherwise great story-driven driving game though.

Players will find twenty-four different tracks to race on and seven arenas. You can even purchase mirrored tracks from within the �secret shop.� Races are not all straightforward though. There are ten different types of races that you will be forced to compete in during the story mode. This gives a great amount of variety when Naughty Dog could have only given us normal races for each level.

Even though there is variety in the gameplay, the bulk of the eighty different competitions (four cups with twenty competitions each) found within Jak X is a standard racing game. Just like in other titles, players will need to watch out for the other races, avoid obstacles, take out enemies, and navigate to the end of each race as close to first place as possible. As you win races, players will unlock Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals that will assist in unlocking other races and hidden content.

Upon receiving a 100% completion rating, players will unlock a new difficulty mode called Hero Mode. This mode is the same story mode that you have already played through and unless you are just itching for a bigger challenge in the same races you have already completed, there is little need to go back for more. However, the time it takes to unlock this mode definitely gives you a lot of gaming time for your money.

Up to two players can compete on a single PS2 console--with up to six playable online. Despite some great online play--complete with a clan mode, I found the big draw here to be the story mode. After completing each level, players are treated to the same humorous cinematic sequences that you would normally see in a Jak title. These sequences are filled with well-written and witty dialogue and give you plenty of incentive to get through the next level.

So why am I not a big fan of the online mode in Jak X? I think it boils down to the fact Sony has yet to offer an online service similar to Xbox Live. I really want to be able to log on my PlayStation 2 with a single username and password, see what my friends are playing, message them with an invite to my game, or join up in the game they are playing. Until Sony offers a service that can give us that, I find it very frustrating to locate complete strangers to compete online against.

The biggest problem with Jak X: Combat Racing is the AI becomes incredibly cheap later on in the game. Also, several of the unlockable vehicles and items in the game aren't really worth the time investment to make them worthwhile.

Despite my nagging concerns with the online gameplay and the inconsistent AI, Jak X is a great racing title that is worth a look. While it may not be the best game in the Jak series, there is enough content and gameplay time in here to keep you busy for many, many hours. In the future, I would love to see another Jak racing title. I do hope that they don't forget that their fans love the Jak Platformers and that he can return to us on the PlayStation 3 or in a future PSP title.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 11/06/05
ESRB Details: Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Language, Use of Tobacco
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Screenshots for Jak X: Combat Racing

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